If you’re a white individual, then one of the most important steps you need to take to dismantle racism in the United States is to dismantle racism within yourself. If we are ever going to build a better world for our children, we must educate ourselves on racial issues and unlearn false ideas right now. If you want to become a better ally for racial justice, but don’t know where to start, pick up any of these antiracist books from a Black-owned independent bookstore in your community today!
1. How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Blurb: “Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.”
“The most courageous book to date on the problem of race in the Western mind.”—The New York Times
Also by this author: Stamped From the Beginning, Stamped, The Water Dancer, The Beautiful Struggle, We Were Eight Years In Power.
2. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Blurb: “The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.”
Widely regarded as one of the most important books of the 21st century, few books have had more impact on recent justice movements, judicial decisions, and policymaking than Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. If you want to learn more about systemic racism in the United States, this book is where to start.
3. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Race by Robin DiAngelo
Blurb: “In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine).
Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue.
In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.”
4. Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad
Blurb: “Based on the viral Instagram challenge that captivated participants worldwide, Me and White Supremacy takes readers on a 28-day journey of how to dismantle the privilege within themselves so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.
Updated and expanded from the original workbook, Me and White Supremacy takes the work deeper by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and including expanded definitions, examples, and further resources.”
5. So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oulo
Blurb: “Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy—from police brutality to the mass incarceration of Black Americans—has put a media spotlight on racism in our society. Still, it is a difficult subject to talk about. How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair—and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend?
In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.”
6. Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis
Blurb: “With her characteristic brilliance, grace and radical audacity, Angela Y. Davis has put the case for the latest abolition movement in American life: the abolition of the prison….Davis expertly argues how social movements transformed these social, political and cultural institutions, and made such practices untenable.
In Are Prisons Obsolete?, Professor Davis seeks to illustrate that the time for the prison is approaching an end. She argues forthrightly for “decarceration”, and argues for the transformation of the society as a whole.”
Also by this author: The Meaning of Freedom, and Other Difficult Dialogues; Freedom Is A Constant Struggle; Women, Race, and Class; Abolition Democracy; The Prison-Industrial Complex; If They Come In the Morning.
7. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Blurb: “At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talk and Go Tell It on the Mountain.
It consists of two “letters,” written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. Described by The New York Times Book Review as “sermon, ultimatum, confession, deposition, testament, and chronicle…all presented in searing, brilliant prose,” The Fire Next Time stands as a classic of literature.”
Also by this author: Go Tell It On The Mountain, If Beale Street Could Talk, I Am Not Your Negro, Giovanni’s Room, Notes of a Native Son, No Name In the Street, and many, many more classics of American literature!
8. The Autobiography of Malcom X. by Alex Haley
Blurb: “Through a life of passion and struggle, Malcolm X became one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century. In this riveting account, he tells of his journey from a prison cell to Mecca, describing his transition from hoodlum to Muslim minister. Here, the man who called himself “the angriest Black man in America” relates how his conversion to true Islam helped him confront his rage and recognize the brotherhood of all mankind.
An established classic of modern America, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” was hailed by the New York Times as “Extraordinary. A brilliant, painful, important book.” Still extraordinary, still important, this electrifying story has transformed Malcom X’s life into his legacy. The strength of his words, the power of his ideas continue to resonate more than a generation after they first appeared.”
Also by this author: Roots: The Saga of an American Family.
9. Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
Blurb: “In her searing collection of essays, Mikki Kendall takes aim at the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement arguing that it has chronically failed to address the needs of all but a few women. Drawing on her own experiences with hunger, violence, and hypersexualization, along with incisive commentary on politics, pop culture, the stigma of mental health, and more, Hood Feminism delivers an irrefutable indictment of a movement in flux. An unforgettable debut, Kendall has written a ferocious clarion call to all would-be feminists to live out the true mandate of the movement in thought and in deed.”
10. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
Blurb: “Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider celebrates an influential voice in twentieth-century literature. In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope.”
11. Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson
Blurb: “Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.”
Named one of the most influential books of the decade by CNN, Stevenson’s true story has been widely met with critical acclaim. You may also want to check out the recent film adaptation starring Jamie Foxx!
12. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made For Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Blurb: “In a time when nearly every institution (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claims to value diversity in its mission statement, Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice. Her stories bear witness to the complexity of America’s social fabric—from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.
For readers who have engaged with America’s legacy on race through the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michael Eric Dyson, I’m Still Here is an illuminating look at how white, middle-class, Evangelicalism has participated in an era of rising racial hostility, inviting the reader to confront apathy, recognize God’s ongoing work in the world, and discover how blackness—if we let it—can save us all.”
13. Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Blurb: “In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion.
…Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.”
14. Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD.
Blurb: “From one of the world’s leading experts on unconscious racial bias come stories, science, and strategies to address one of the central controversies of our time. With a perspective that is at once scientific, investigative, and informed by personal experience, Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt offers us the language and courage we need to face one of the biggest and most troubling issues of our time.
She exposes racial bias at all levels of society—in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and criminal justice system. Yet she also offers us tools to address it. Eberhardt shows us how we can be vulnerable to bias but not doomed to live under its grip. Racial bias is a problem that we all have a role to play in solving.”
15. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Blurb: “Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides. These topics have only become more urgent as the national conversation about race is increasingly acrimonious. This fully revised edition is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the dynamics of race in America.”
Remember: Just like reading a book about playing the viola doesn’t automatically make you a violist, reading an antiracist book doesn’t make you or me an antiracist overnight. Becoming an antiracist is a lifelong process that requires action, humility, and commitment.
Self-education and antiracist growth is a lifelong process, and reading any one of these books is a great place to start! Share which books you commit to reading in the comments below!
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A. A. Ford is a writer from St. Louis, Missouri. She is currently a student majoring in English and Theology at the University of Notre Dame. In addition to her articles for Society 19, Ford is known for her poetry and fiction, which can be found at https://aafordstories.wordpress.com/. In her free time, she loves directing stage theater, spending time with her friends and family, and trying her best to glorify God by her life.